Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 2096: Gorgacce Rentals, Sommavilla
House and cottages near Mercatale di Cortona, Tuscany East
July 2005, 1 week
Although technically located in Tuscany, the surrounding area is northern Umbria. Located near San Andrea di Sorbello in the Niccone Valley about 15 minutes from both Mercatale di Cortona to the west and 15 minutes from Umbertide to the east. The property is at the end of very steep, narrow white road about 300 meters above the valley floor and rte 416.
The property is a working farm (sheep, olive trees, other organic products) and the main house is the owner's residence (at least when not being rented to travellers over the summer). The farm buildings are a distance from the house and while we could hear them working during the day, we were not in contact with the workers. The owner maintains an "office" work area on part of the lower level of the main house, but he too was unobtrusive during our stay.
Because of the high altitude, the views from the house and pool area are spectacular. Temperatures were cooler than the cities and the surrounding valley. Bugs were non-existent.
No services are within walking distance. The nearest grocery stores were in Mercatale di Cortona (Di Fedi Elio at Via Turati 7; small and family-run) and in Umbertide (Conad & Polo at Via Martiri della Liberta' 1). There are a couple of bars in Mercatale; another bar with some basic supplies in Mengaccini; and another bar in Niccone on the way to Umbertide.
The web site has an excellent description of the property with many pictures.
The main house is a restored stone farmhouse on two levels. The main living space is one floor above ground level accessed by an exterior stone staircase to an outdoor covered terrace. The main door enters into a huge kitchen; there is a large working (though not in July) fireplace with comfortable sofas and chairs in front of it (the time we spent in the villa was spent in this room); refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, lots of table/counter space; dining table seating six; tile floor, beamed ceiling. From the kitchen one steps up to a living room with more comfortable seating and a tv (that we didn't use) and a reading area with lots of books (mostly in french and italian) and tourist info/brochures/guidebooks. The living space is large, light and airy with many windows. There are two twin beds in an alcove off the seating area, separated with full length curtains; not very private, but worked well for our teenagers as they were the last to go to bed and didn't mind people walking through their space in the mornings.
There is a large bedroom with two twin beds off one side of the living space. There is also a large full bathroom with tub and hand-held shower on this side of the house. On the far side of the living space is the second bedroom with double bed. This room has an ensuite bathroom with sink, toilet and shower. A third bedroom is accessed through this bedroom, up three narrow, very slippery stone steps. The room has two twin beds and a lower ceiling.
On the ground floor, with separate access (and able to be rented separately from the main house), is the Cantina (former stable). This unit has a small kitchen and a full bath. The living area is large with very comfortable chairs and sofa; the unit is one big space which can be divided by full length curtains. At the back is a big bedroom area with double bed, the middle part has a quality sofabed. An extra single bed is also available. A large covered stone terrace is right outside the kitchen and has wooden table and benches and chairs to seat 12.
About 50 meters from the main house is a cottage with a living/kitchen in the center and two bedrooms, one with a double bed and one with a double and a twin bed. The cottage also has a terrace with table and benches.
Originally we arranged to rent only the main house and the cantina (we were a family of four with two teenage boys, my inlaws, another couple, and a family of four with two kids under the age of ten). The night before we were to leave for Italy and less than a week before our vacation rental was to start, we contacted the rental agency and committed to also rent the cottage. Luckily it was available, because the arrangement of the beds/bedrooms in the main house would not have been ideal for our family groups. The younger family of four took the Cantina (since their kids could share the sofa bed). The couple with us took the double room near the large bathroom on the upper level of the main house. Our family of four used the other double bedroom with ensuite bath and the kids slept in the alcove off the living area. We only used the extra twin bedroom to store luggage and clothing. My in-laws loved having the cottage to themselves: they often retired earlier than the rest of us.
The grounds were beautiful. As described above, there were two separate terraces associated with the main house. We had breakfast each day on the upper terrace outside of the kitchen. One night all 12 of us cooked and dined together on the lower level terrace.
The pool is at the edge of the property, a short walk from the buildings and has spectacular views over the valley; a castle that we never could identify is visible below. The pool is large with eight lounge chairs and a table with four chairs in the area. We all really enjoyed the ping pong table (plenty of paddles and balls). An extensive clothesline is also available.
The furniture is very comfortable and homey; the owners live in the house in the off-season. All 12 of us were able to gather in the kitchen seating area at the end of each day. There was also plenty of seating outdoors and at the pool.
Beds were comfortable, and like the rest of the house were very homey. Bureaus were filled with the owners' belongings, so we lived out of our suitcases and used the extra bedroom for storage.
The bathrooms were fine: plenty of hot water, even with six of us in the main house showering every day and constantly doing laundry. Toilet paper and bar soap was provided, although we did replenish the toilet paper over the week stay.
The kitchen in the main house was a joy: huge and comfortable. Typically small refrigerator; four-burner stove and oven (which we did not use). Dishwasher worked well (twice over the week). Two stove-top espresso pots were put to use each morning and plenty of espresso cups for the 12 of us. Adequate plates, cups, flatware to serve breakfast and snacks every day (and dinner, the one time we cooked in); two pasta pots and other cookware provided. The kitchen was our favorite room of the house.
Problems or Bonuses
The only caution for future renters would be the white road from Rte 416 up to the villa. It is steep, narrow and it took us at least 10 minutes to reach the main road from the villa each trip (this with a nine-passenger Ducati van, but with the smaller mercedes in our party it was also a chore coming-and-going).
The owners provided a wonderful array of staples upon arrival: a block of espresso, tea bags, bottled water, fruit juice, package of pasta, bottle of olive oil, a bag of cookies, sugar, salt, toilet paper, bar soap, dish soap dishwasher detergent and clothes detergent.
There was a binder provided with emergency phone numbers (including local doctors) and descriptions of the nearby attractions. There were also lists of restaurants with descriptions and phone numbers. The agency that manages the property also offers local guided walks and wine-tastings, and infornation was provided for these activities too.
We attended a wine tasting at I Girasole di Sant' Andrea (on rte 416 east of San Andrea di Sorbello towards Niccone) that was very interesting. The event included a tour of the winery and a tour of nearby vineyards, and then a wine tasting with appetizers, before enjoying a barbeque of local meats for dinner. It was fun and informative.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Loved Gorgacce Rentals. They are based in London, so language was not a problem. Gorgacce Rentals manages a number of properties in the Niccone Valley, so there was a variety to chose from as our travelling party grew. Communications were entirely by email; all questions were answered promptly. We were especially pleased that they were able to respond to our request to add the Cottage to our rental when we contacted them by email on a Saturday night (before departing on Sunday).
The owner of the property was onsite to meet us on arrival and explained all of the appliances and showed us the property. The owners are French (Cristina) and Italian (Alfredo) but spoke English. They own and manage a small restaurant and store on route 416 where they sell the organic products of the farm. We stopped in to purchase olive oil and other products, although we did not eat at the restaurant.
The web site for Gorgacce Rentals is great, especially the calendar of available dates for each property. The web site also has a useful map of the area, locating each property, as well as information on the surrounding area.
Our rental period was July 2nd to July 9th 2005. We paid a deposit of 400 pounds (charged on Visa) in January. Then we paid the balance of 1780 pounds in mid-May, also by Visa. This was for our original rental of the main house and the Cantina. When we added the Cottage at the last minute, they gave us a discounted price for renting all three units together and only charged an additional 220 pounds. The 2006 prices on their web site are the same as those we paid in 2005.
We only had a need to contact the local agency representative once during our stay, to reserve the wine tasting event. They returned our call promptly.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I would recommend Gorgacce Rentals absolutely and would use them again. We loved Sommavilla and would recommend it also. We would certainly stay in another Gorgacce Rentals property if we were to visit northern Umbria again (and we might!). The location is very convenient for visiting both eastern Tuscany and northen Umbria.
Things to do in this area
We day-tripped during each day (Cortona, Siena, Umbertide, Montone, Assisi, Orvieto) but returned in the afternoon to use the pool, and then ate locally each evening. For dinners we visited restaurants in Lisciano Niccone, Niccone, Umbertide and Preggio. We ate twice at Ristorante Nonna Gelsa in Niccone, once outdoors under the tent and once indoors when it rained. Ristorante La Castagna in Preggio was our favorite: the restaurant is perched on the edge of a mountain about 1000 feet above the valley and faces northwest for a spectacular sunset. The gnocchi repieni and the crepes con funghi primi were wonderful. Ristorante di Gianna in Lisciano Niccone was recommended by the villa owners. It was our least expensive meal: appetizer, primi, secondi, contorni, vino, fanta and aqua for 6 for only 93 euro; excellent carpaccio di pesce spada.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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